Shivertongue

08.11.2014 - Shivertongue - On Blooded Wings (V)

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So, a break from Wavepainter this week. I got this idea, and it literally woke me up two nights in a row, so I decided, if I wanted to actually sleep, I'd better get it written out.

 
This is the first short story I've finished in about ten years, and I fear I may be a bit rusty at them. It was a lot of fun to write, though, and I hope you enjoy it.
 
I look forward to any and all feedback.
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Alrighty. I confess I have not read your prior submissions, so this is my first intro to your writing.

 

I liked the story and its idea. I suspected its ending, which is cool. I'm a bit liberal with large-scale death by fire, so hey! I figured the King was too unyielding for the princess to have any other motivation.

 

A few minor observations:

 

The opening paragraphs have a lot of passive voice (frowning, sighing, sitting), so those could be cleaner and given some more punch.

 

Theo's Dragon-name works because it's funny, but it doesn't sound like a name. The matriarch's sounded a bit closer. I understand that both are based on destiny, and I really like how the names are explicit foreshadowing, but easy to overlook because they're played for humor. Which is why I think they could use some tweaking to sound more like names and have the effect you're going for.

 

As I said above, the ending (to me, anyway) seemed a bit obvious. But the main reason Arri is able to endure the matriarch's fire is not foreshadowed, at least not that I caught. It's all from the book ("every part of a dragon has its uses"), sure. And I understand how Arri endured the fire, but it felt a bit too easy that she got what she wanted.

 

Which brings me to my main, real criticism: there's a big lack of tension in the story. I felt like I knew from early on that Arri was going to get her way and kill a bunch of people so her kingdom (which is now empty of a good deal of its army) would take her seriously. I like when humor disarms a story, so the more severe plot twists are more dramatic, and I didn't feel that here. The knight was a standard jerk knight, the King was a bad father who didn't listen, and the princess murders a whole bunch of people. Each character only has one note, so there's no misdirection or subtlety with the story's narrative.

 

I can tell it was fun to write though, and it was fun to read, but as I feel like the characters and narrative devices could use either more subtlety and buildup, or some misdirection so the twist feels like more of a twist. Good stuff!

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Oh, damnation... Not the best intro to my work. My short fiction is nowhere near the level of quality my longer-length stuff is. xD

 

But no, thank you, this is all excellent stuff to know. One of my current objectives in writing is to force myself to do things I haven't done before - primarily, teaching myself how to write short fiction.  

 

Clearly, I still have a ways to go with it. xD

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Hey man, I'm with you there. It's all about breaking that comfort zone. I make it a general rule not to transmogrify dream-stories into fiction, but I totally know the feeling when a story is just banging against the bars in your head and you gotta get it out. 

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I did like the story, there were some fun parts in it, but on the whole I missed tension, surprise and non-cliché characters. I’m partial to the damsel in distress turning things around – and Arri did that with a vengeance – so I liked her character. The other characters not so much, they’re there to fill archetype roles (the obnoxious ineffectual knight, the king who doesn’t listen). The plot itself also follows a pretty straight road. The twist at the end isn’t really a twist.

 

A couple other points:

Stilted speech: Some of the speech in the story didn’t feel natural, and that’s mostly from the dragons. This one for example read pretty stilted to me: “I am correct in the presumption that you are the pitiful being with the audacity to not only abduct my firstborn male scion, but to demand my presence to… negotiate his return.”

 

Maid and butler: It’s only briefly but whenever I see words like “As I have told you before” or words to those effect I cringe. In this case, since the knight does appear clueless, I can forgive her telling him things they both already know, but I did have that cringe reaction.

 

Ending: I liked it, though it didn’t come as a surprise. Don’t know what you could do though to add a bit of surprise to it though.

 

Theo’s dragon name: Like Jagabond Theo’s dragon name didn’t work as well as his matron’s did. I think it would work better with the ‘The’ at the start.

 

Devastation’s death: It felt too easy for Arri to kill her, even if the princess was protected from the flames we’re still talking about a pretty massive dragon here. I can’t imagine Arri keeping her grip on the dragon’s tongue while Devastation swung her around. It’s a tongue. And then she can hold on with one hand while lunging forward with the other. Even so close the dragon’s pretty big and even with a long sword she’d have a hard time piercing through the mouth and into the brain.

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Well done for trying something outside your comfort zone. There's a lot to like in this story - both Arri and Theo appealed to me as characters, and I'm always happy to see traditional gender stereotypes upset.

 

I agree with the comments above that this lacked tension. It was a nice story, but apart from the final twist it was clear to me where it was going from early on.

 

The two titles set very different expectations in tone - not sure whether the juxtaposition of the two works. I want it to, but I'm not convinced.

 

Great start, both in description and dialogue.

 

There's some archaic phrasing in here. I get that it's meant to create an atmosphere, and I thought it worked coming from the characters, especially the dragon. But there were other places where it got in the way of the flow of the story for me. For example 'She slipped the subjugation band on Theo’s neck mere moments before, and dreaded to think what might have happened had Sir Lexal been more expedient.' Something about the structure of this sentence, and particularly the word 'expedient', drew my attention away from the story and onto the words.

 

The king seemed inconsistent in his attitude. He didn't credit Arri with enough agency to tackle the initial situation, then blamed her for bringing the matriarch down on them.

 

Minor point, but how does the matriarch managed to talk while Arri's holding her tongue?

 

I like the twist of the two characters working together, but I don't think you need to spend so long on that aftermath scene, and Theo's ability to become human seemed to come out of nowhere.

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I really liked reading this one. Only one thing that hasn't been mentioned already stands out to me. It seems like the closing chapter of a longer book. I guess that's short fiction for you, but I would love to read the story from the beginning, seeing how Arri tricks or forces her way on the adventure and some chances to see how the knight begrudgingly follows. It would add to his audacity in taking credit later. Plus showing the agreement made between Theo and the princess would be interesting, though I know you used it as a twist at the end.

 

Anyway, it was fun! Keep going!

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I'll agree with what the others wrote.  There's a general theme of not much tension.  This is more on the humor side than serious, so I think you can get away with lack of tension more, but this is lacking the polish I see in your longer work.

Still, great to work out of your comfort zone.  I'm not good at short stories either--mine tend to phase into novellas when I'm not looking.

 

Some notes:

 

pg 10: The king seems really, really, dumb.  It's humor, but he's almost as bad a caricature as Sir Lexal.

 

pg 11:  good, I hoped Sir Lexal would have some problems.

 

pg 13: A good reveal of what the blanket could do, but it would have been even stronger if we knew something about the verses in the book first.

 

pg 14:  wait, she leaves her sword in the dragon's eye and then stabs it through the mouth?  With what?

 

pg 15: I like that Arri takes up her father's promise.

 

pg 17: I would mention the dragon's name again so we remember how it came true.  I had to look back to the beginning to see what it was.

 

 

I liked this.  It was witty and turned lots of tropes on their heads.  I think the pacing could be tightened up a little to make sure all the promises are delivered on at the point with the most impact.  Revealing the rhyme and the blanket, and Theo's name could potentially have more impact.  Still in all, a nice tight story.

 

Did Arri come from Arya Stark?   I remember her calling herself 'Ari when she was pretending to be a boy, and needle/the fencing rapier were also similar.

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@Mandamon:

She has a sword and a rapier, so I guess she used both.

 

 

 

General notes:

 

Nice story, but, upon reflection, it feels like everyone except Arri is incompetent. Even the best swordsman is incapable of anything but death. While I do not see the characters as *that* one-sided, they can all be summed up with up to two sentences, which is generally a bad sign. All in all, it was enjoyable to me.

 

----------------------

 

Here are all of my comments, including resolved or unimportant ones, by the order they arose. Sorry that they are short and insignificant - I am not yet familiar with evaluating others' work. 

 

 

 

Catching a dragon seems very easy. 

 

I like Theo's humour, especially since he is captive.

 

Sir Lexal (Lekal, anyone?) is not afraid of dragons. That is rarely seen, in my experiance.

 

Arri is unreasonable - if he is to be her betrothed (sounds strange to say), can't they spend time together?

 

Okay, the magic system is very complicated. (hair and gender and stuff? must be really confusing for their sorcerers)

 

If the two are not yet betrothed, why would she let him defy her? That seems very spineless and uncharacteristic.

 

Deeply flawed logic - if the book was right once, it has to be right in everything. Was this intentional?

 

I like Theo's insults and manners.

 

What is "attack under parlay"?

 

You wrote "my flames shall consuming you" (matriarch's second paragraph)

 

 

Why'd Arri run to the king?

 

Wait, there are clocks? A-typical, and if you are not planning on continuing this, you should re-evaluate this line.

 

 

What is a Sellsword? (is it a mercenary?)

 

Yay! Women can fight!

 

Oh, please make a woman win her hand in marriage! It will be magnificent!

 

Arri or Arii? (you use at least one of each)

 

"Andrawlond" does not roll off the tongue for me, especially not enough for a battle cry.

 

Yay! Lexi died!

 

*If you would like, I can tell you what the smell of burning corpses is, so you may incorporate it. Not for the weak-gutted, though, as even though I have not smelt it, I hate imagining it. Makes me want to throw up. But maybe that is more because I associate the description and the mental image ( or mental smell) with very specific things.

 

How was the dress ever white? Like, wasn't the blood on it before it was sowed?

 

Arri cries in minimal pain, caused by stumbling, while fighting a matriarch (and therefore, expecting much larger amounts of pain, presumably).

 

 

Wait, who is Theo? Is he human or not?

 

Theo's sisters "will spent" a few hundred years.

 

 

 

Disappointing - you fooled us by only giving us a small part of her thoughts, and hiding some from us. Are you sure you want to do that?

 

-----------------------------

 

Thanks for sharing! Good luck with your short story skills! 

Edited by Tal Spektor
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This is certainly a well written story. Some of the language is maybe just beyond the line of flowery for me but, overall, I thought it flowed very well – notwithstanding some grammar points, and what looked like partial edits – all easily scooped up in editing, of course.

 

It’s very much in a fairytale style, and well done at that. I thought Arri’s slaying of the dragon felt unsatisfying, perhaps because it was too easy – I appreciate it’s a short, but there was no try-fail and the girl didn’t really have to struggle with anything. I guess the carefully laid plan is a valid fairytale trope, so it’s not a major issue for me.

 

I think the main thing for me was that I really didn’t care for Arri as a character, or all that much about what happened to her. I'm not sure anyone in the story was especially likeable, and the matriarch didn’t do anything to make her especially unlikeable.

 

A well written, interesting story, with some very clever touches, but I never really felt enthralled by it.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

Page 1 – A linen ‘blanket’ sounds more like a sheet, but what do I know.

 

Page 2 – I think her hair would either by “woven into the band” or “used in the creation of the band.”

 

Page 4 – She refers to “the spine” – is that the spine of the female? I don’t think it’s clear. Also, I think just “the greater her rage will be.”

 

Page 4 – "bathed in shadows", sounded off to me. Perhaps "swathed in shadows"? Also, unsure about the application of “resonance” in the last paragraph.

 

Page 13 – I'm not convinced by the matriarch just standing there and allowing Arri to stab her in the eye.

 

Page 15 – LOL, Theo finishing his novel is a bit meta, but it’s fun, I did laugh.

Edited by Robinski
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